South Carolina and Gonzaga threw haymakers during the first Final Four game of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, and in the end, the the Bulldogs came out on top, 77-73.
This was a fantastic basketball game – it was close for a while, Gonzaga started to pull away, South Carolina went on a 14-0 run in the second half to take the lead, the Bulldogs responded with a 7-0 run of their own to go back on top, and the Gamecocks were never able to get back on top.
On one hand, it’s so sad to see the Gamecocks get knocked out. They were college basketball’s Cinderella this yeah – a 7-seed that got carried to the Final Four behind some stellar defense, a star senior in Sindarius Thornwell (who was noticeably out of it after dealing with an illness this week), and a head coach in Frank Martin who has paid his dues to get to that point.
But that “paid his dues” thing kind of sums up Gonzaga’s Mark Few. He’s been there since 1999, and despite making the Tournament every year, this was the first time he ever advanced past the Elite Eight. With the win, the Bulldogs moved to 37-1 on the year, and while mid-major teams with good records have something of a reputation, it’s very much a deserved – Gonzaga is the best team in America per KenPom and Sagarin’s ratings.
The heavy lifting for the Bulldogs was done by star guard Nigel Williams-Goss (23 points, six assists, five rebounds) and dynamic freshman forward Zach Collins (14 points, 13 rebounds). While Thornwell (15 points, five rebounds) was the big name sophomore guard P.J. Dozier (17 points, nine assists) and sophomore forward Chris Silva (13 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks) stood out.
With the win, Gonzaga will take on either North Carolina or Oregon for the national title. Either game would end up being hot fire, so it’s hard to imagine that we’ll be disappointed on Monday night.